Now that an increasing amount of smartphone manufacturers are selling their phones at cheaper price points, it’s much easier for consumers to afford an off-contract device rather than purchasing one with a two-year contract. At least in the United States, the way smartphones are priced has changed dramatically, and that’s a good thing.

So, what are the best smartphones out there for those who’d like to forgo the standard contract and buy unlocked? We’re here to take you through the best unlocked Android smartphones for under $250, under $500 and over $500. As always, if you have anything you’d like to suggest, be sure to speak up in the comment section at the bottom of the post.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch. It’s also worth noting that this article is written for a U.S.-centric point of view, though (since they are unlocked) pretty much all of these devices are available outside of the U.S., at least in some capacity.


Best phones under $250

Moto G5 Plus

See more Moto G5 Plus photos

If you’re in the market for an affordable, unlocked smartphone for under $250, look no further. Lenovo’s Moto G5 Plus is one of the best cheap Android phones on the market, and for good reason.

The 1080p display is vibrant and perfect for watching YouTube videos and surfing the web, and the big 3,000 mAh battery will help keep you going all day long. Plus, with the Snapdragon 625 processor coupled with 2-4 GB of RAM, this thing can basically handle everything you throw at it.

And for those of you interested in a bare-bones software experience, you’ll be happy to hear that the G5 Plus runs a very slimmed-down version of Android 7.0 Nougat.

The Moto G5 Plus is reliable, sleek, and inexpensive. What more could you want?

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 424 ppi
  • 2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm, 155 g

Read more


Honor 6X

See more Honor 6X photos

If you’re looking for a phone under $250, you should definitely check out the Honor 6X. With its big 5.5-inch 1080p display, long-lasting battery, metal construction, dual-SIM support and super fast fingerprint sensor, the 6X gives many other budget phones a run for their money.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this device is its rear-facing dual camera setup, which features 12 and 2 MP sensors. While every dual-camera setup utilizes the secondary camera differently, the 6X uses the 2 MP sensor to capture depth information that can be taken advantage of when using the camera’s wide aperture mode.

This phone isn’t perfect, though. It doesn’t come with USB Type-C support, EMUI is a little unpolished, and the device’s bottom-firing speaker isn’t the greatest. If you can get past those few caveats, though, the Honor 6X might be well worth your money.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 403 ppi
  • Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655 processor
  • 3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 and 2 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,340 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm, 162 g

Read more


Moto G4 Plus

See more Moto G4 Plus photos

Instead of announcing just one Moto G variant in 2016, Lenovo brought us three different devices – the Moto G4 Plus, Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play.

The highest-end of the bunch is the Moto G4 Plus, and it brings a handful of notable improvements to the Moto G range. It has a big 1080p display, capable processor, expandable storage, and even a fingerprint sensor this time around. While we had a slight problem with the volume/power buttons and the camera in low light, we can honestly say this is one of the best budget offerings in 2016.

Right now you can buy it in the U.S. for under $200 through Amazon.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm, 155 g

Read more


Best phones under $500

OnePlus 3T

See more OnePlus 3T photos

We weren’t expecting OnePlus to release another new flagship in 2016, but it happened. If you were a fan of the OnePlus 3, you’ll certainly love the OnePlus 3T.

With its powerful Snapdragon 821 processor backed by 6 GB of RAM, the 3T absolutely flies through web browsing, gaming and most other everyday tasks. It also has a bigger battery this time around (3,400 mAh to be exact), which is more than enough to get you through a full day of use on a single charge. In addition, the 3T now sports 16MP rear and front-facing camera sensors, a dual-SIM card slot, plenty of on-board storage, and a fast front-facing fingerprint sensor on the front.

Basically the OnePlus 3T is a better OnePlus 3, and we’re certainly not complaining. You can buy it from OnePlus’ website in Gunmetal, Soft Gold, and Midnight Black color options.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch Optic AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
  • 6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD card expansion
  • 16 MP rear camera, 16 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,400 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm, 158 g

Read more


ZTE Axon 7

See more ZTE Axon 7 photos

ZTE’s Axon Pro from 2015 was a good phone, but it fell short in a few key areas. It came to market with only one storage option, no expandable memory, and the dual camera setup on the back of the device felt a bit gimmicky. Not only does the company’s latest flagship fix all of those problems, it brings much more to the table.

It has a big 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, the latest Snapdragon processor, plenty of RAM, multiple storage options, and yes, expandable memory up to 256 GB. It also sports some killer front-facing speakers, all-day battery life, a great camera, and a sleek, attractive design. While certain parts of the software could use a little more polish, the ZTE Axon 7 goes toe-to-toe with the best in the Android market. It’s also inexpensive at only $400, making this an even more attractive option for folks looking to score a solid flagship device.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 538 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4/6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 20 MP front camera, 8 MP rear camera
  • Non-removable 3,250 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 151.7 x 75 x 7.9 mm, 175 g

Read more


Best phones above $500

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

See more Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus photos

Following a successful launch of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung seemed to have a pretty good idea as to what users want in a smartphone. Solid battery life, high-res screens, impressive camera performance and more were all things the company achieved with the 2016 flagships. And while the Note 7 seemed to improve even more in those areas, overheating problems caused the device to enter total recall mode.

Now we get to see what Samsung has in store for us in 2017. It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus feature top-of-the-line specifications, great cameras and an all-new design that’s truly futuristic.

See also:

Best Samsung phones

May 15, 2017

This time around, Samsung included a curved screen on both the S8 and S8 Plus, as well as a unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio that allows for a much more comfortable in-hand feel. The company even ditched its famous physical home button and included on-screen navigation keys (finally). Under the hood, these devices come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (or Exynos 8895, depending on the region), 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of on-board storage, and one of the latest versions of Android, 7.0 Nougat.

Samsung even launched a few extra accessories alongside the S8 that you should definitely consider checking out. The new Samsung DeX dock lets you use your S8 as a desktop computer, and there’s also a new Gear 360 camera that allows for shooting video in 4K and live streaming to YouTube. Of course, there’s also a new Galaxy S8-compatible Gear VR headset, complete with a controller for easier navigation.

All in all, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are two of the most promising smartphones launching in 2017.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S8

  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 570 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm, 155 g

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

  • 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 529 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g

Read more


LG G6

See more LG G6 photos

Throughout 2016, the LG G5 struggled to take on the Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and all the other flagships released that year. It’s not a bad phone, per se, it just lacks the level of polish we normally expect from top-tier smartphones nowadays. The phone would have been more widely accepted if it nailed the modular implementation, but unfortunately the whole module-swapping process was wonky and the three “Friends” that launched with the G5 weren’t all that appealing. With the G6, LG has gone back to the basics.

Certainly the most standout feature on the G6 is its 5.7-inch Quad HD LCD display, with its interesting aspect ratio of 18:9 and rounded corners. It also comes with a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, plenty of on-board storage, an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance and dual 13 MP rear cameras. It’s worth noting that not all LG G6s are created equal. For example, the G6 that’s coming to the U.S. is the only variant that supports wireless charging, while the Hi-Fi Quad DAC is exclusive to South Korea and certain markets in Asia. What’s more, the G6 with 64 GB of storage is only available in a handful of markets.

This isn’t a phone that introduces a bunch of gimmicky features that you’ll never use. It’s simply a solid, well-built smartphone that nails the main areas users care most about.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with 2880 x 1440 resolution, 564 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 13 MP rear cameras, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm, 163 g

Read more


HTC U11

See more HTC U11 photos

The HTC 10 was one of our favorite Android phones of 2016, and for good reason. The Taiwanese company absolutely nailed the design of the 10, and it worked hard at scaling back the software to make it feel like the bare-bones Android experience we all know and love. And while it didn’t have a bunch of gimmicky extras, that was okay. The HTC 10 was a solid Android phone that nailed the basics.

Now HTC is back with the 10’s successor, the HTC U11. With an eye-catching, glossy design, all-day battery life, and a smooth and snappy software experience, the U11 competes toe-to-toe with the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 when it comes to performance. It also has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, according to DxOMark.

The standout feature on the U11 is something HTC calls Edge Sense. The sides of the phone are pressure sensitive, and this allows you to physically squeeze the phone to activate a specific function or open an app like the camera or web browser. Having to squeeze your phone to make it do something does sound a bit odd, but we’ve really found this feature to come in handy.

Before you go out and spend $650 on this baby, there are a few things you should know. For starters, this phone doesn’t have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, meaning you’ll either need to use Bluetooth headphones or carry around the included headphone adapter everywhere you go. Also, while HTC’s Sense is one of our favorite Android skins out there, it is feeling a bit dated at this point.

If you can get past those few caveats, though, the U11 will certainly not disappoint.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4/6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 16 MP front camera
  • 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm, 169 g

Read more


Google Pixel and Pixel XL

See more Google Pixel and Pixel XL photos

Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are here, and they truly are some amazing smartphones.

Not only are they the first phones to ship with the Google Assistant on board, they also come with plenty of exclusive software features and some of the best smartphone cameras in existence.

Under the hood, they sport some killer specs, too. Both devices have an AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, plenty of on-board storage and long-lasting batteries. The overall design of these phones may not be the most unique, but they do feel like premium phones through and through.

There are a few things about these phones that will turn some people away, though. For starters, they only sport an IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning they’re not nearly as waterproof as the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. There are ways around that, but none that will make the devices truly waterproof. Plus, if you buy the Verizon model, you’ll have to deal with a small amount of bloatware (though you will be able to uninstall it), you won’t be able to unlock the bootloader, and Verizon will be handling all Pixel and Pixel XL software updates (though the company swears it won’t delay them).

If you’re in the market for a new flagship Android phone and don’t mind spending over $650, you should buy the Pixel or Pixel XL… these are two of the best Android phones out there.

Specs

Google Pixel

  • 5.0-inch AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 441 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,770 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6 mm, 143 g

Google Pixel XL

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,450 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6 mm, 168 g

Read more


There you have it – our picks of the best unlocked Android phones you can buy right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

Check out our related best lists:

Show 142 comments